Week one and overwhelmed

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by Trombean, Jan 11, 2018 at 5:42 PM.

  1. Trombean

    Trombean New Member

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    Jan 11, 2018 at 5:42 PM

    Hi everyone, I'm new here. I began my first week as a teacher on monday. I'm technically a long term sub for now and I've been told I'll be able to keep the position at the end of the school year if I do a good enough job. I teach elementary school band and middle school piano.

    I start my day in the morning teaching band at the elementary school. For the most part, it's great and I love every second of it. But then, I head over to the middle school and teach piano and things are a little different.

    Now, one of my classes is fine. They are a 7th grade class and can get out of hand at times, but for the most part respect my authority and want to be in the class. However, later on I have an 8th grade class and it is the exact opposite. The class is a complete circus. I can't get students to sit down, do what they're asked, stop talking back and stop interrupting me while I'm trying to lecture.

    Today, my class was absolutely uncontrollable. I tried to start the lesson with a smile and enthusiasm. It turned into me firmly asking the students to stop playing on the pianos or talking while I'm talking. My frustration grew as another student began questioning my understanding of the subject. "That's not what our last teacher taught us. Are you sure you know what you're doing?". I, however, calmly tell them that I am a certified teacher and I've been involved with music my whole life. The students then began unplugging the pianos and pretending like they were broken so they don't have to play. Finally, after students had turned the volume on the pianos all the way up and started using them to make lots of annoying sound effects, I finally snapped and raised my voice, telling them that they can either respect my classroom rules or go to the office, which one student immediately decided to challenge by once again, making sound effects. Thinking I could make an example out of him, I sent him to the office immediately. I thought that would stop the behavior, but students continued to do the same thing throughout the class period. Finally as the bell rang and the students were leaving my class, one of them threw a carton of milk at my desk and it exploded everywhere. It happened so fast that I didn't catch which student did it. The class is completely out of control and I'm overwhelmed as to what I should do.

    The worst part? Apparently this class was a very well behaved class before the previous teacher left. So they are now just being like this because I'm here.

    I'm afraid to ask my peers for help especially after listening to conversations that some of them have during lunch about other teachers. I'm pretty sure the first thing they'll think is "Why are you a teacher if you can't control a classroom?"

    I feel so disrespected that it doesn't seem like there's any coming back from it. I don't really understand what I'm doing wrong. I've familiarized myself up and down with standard classroom management procedures. I've asked friends of mine that teach at other schools, and they give me a list of things that I should be doing which would be great, except they haven't given me a suggestion that I'm not already trying.

    Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated. Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018 at 6:08 PM
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  3. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Companion

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    Jan 11, 2018 at 6:48 PM

    I've been there. Junior high music is a weird place to be. Right now, I'd say they're testing the boundaries. How is your music program set up? It's possible that some of them don't want to be there and were only going along to get along with their previous teacher. If there are students who are there because they have to be, if there's a way to get them out, do it.

    When I was student teaching, I had to teach class guitar as part of the gen. music class and had some similar issues. Part of my problem was that we didn't have enough guitars for everyone, so they were partnered. It got to a point where my 5th hour group could not handle guitar circle, so my CT and I laid it out for them: your behavior is unacceptable and until you've shown us that you can manage yourselves, no more fun interactive lessons. It took about a week of at-your-desk work and they shaped up. They were still difficult, but were improved enough to work with. I would do something similar with your class. It shouldn't be hard to find material on the history of the piano, famous pianists, the science behind sound etc.

    Why did a student have milk to begin with? I would put a firm stop to any food in the piano lab ASAP. If it's not already a rule, admin should have no problem backing you up with that because it's a hazard to the equipment.
     
    Joyful! likes this.
  4. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Jan 12, 2018 at 4:32 AM

    Your tough love response may be to put the pianos away and just do seat work until the students realize you mean what you say. Especially, if the students are sneaking liquids into the room, you don't want the pianos destroyed.
     
    Caesar753 likes this.
  5. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Cohort

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    Jan 12, 2018 at 6:47 AM

    I think you have a particularly challenging job, especially since you are teaching an elective course, and students may not take it as seriously as they take their academic courses. This is compounded by the fact that you may just be seen as a long-term sub, as opposed to a "regular" teacher at this point.

    I would take a day to re-explain the ground rules and expectations to the students. I agree with the previous poster that food and beverage needs to be the first thing to go. I also agree with the suggestion for seatwork. If they want to unplug the pianos so they don't have to play them, I hope they like what they have to do when the pianos aren't working----essays! "Oh shoot, the piano isn't working? Guess we have to work on a research paper on a famous composer instead. Shucks!" That ought to change their tune real quick.
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jan 12, 2018 at 12:46 PM

    Week one can be overwhelming. This is my 5th year and it's usually the hardest for me. It is because the kids have to get used to structure and waking up early, I have to get used to waking up early, and I often overwhelm myself with the amount of work it will take over the next few months.

    Second, there is always (for most teachers) that one class. For me last year it was 6th period, and I'm embarrassed to say I never really got a great control of that class. after a few months they've had great days about 50 % of the time but it was hard work, and they stayed very unpredictable. It was not a great environment. This year it's 4th period, but I'm working on it one student at a time and I think it will be handled by next week.

    Based on how you've described that class, I wouldn't let them put their hands on the pianos, obviously there will be no learning and they will probably start damaging them. I'm no music teacher but I know you can teach a lot of things (book work) that relates to pianos. Great composers, piano players, Mozart, Liszt, Beethoven, music appreciation, music theory, etc.
    You have to be very firm with them 100 % of the time. You probably want to have a heart to heart conversation with them and tell them they will be learning about X,Y, and Z before they can sit in front of the pianos again and explain why. If they can do their work the way they're supposed to, they get on the pianos. They might actually get it together and in a week you decide pianos are ok.

    You should also be vigilant 100 % of the time, which is hard in a large class but you do want to see what is going on at all time. It's much easier if they're doing book work and almost impossible with equipment.

    don't stress out, obviously your other classes are great, you just need to come up with a plan for this one and soon your troubles will be gone.
     
  7. Joyful!

    Joyful! Cohort

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    Jan 12, 2018 at 9:12 PM

    You've received great advice. Don't get discouraged yet. :) I agree you should find seatwork/paperwork instead of the instruments. Some challenging theory might be in order. This might also allow them to see that you do know your material. If the other teacher was so amazing, they may be acting out because they are resentful that the teacher left them. Just stand your ground.
     
  8. Trombean

    Trombean New Member

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    Jan 14, 2018 at 12:40 PM

    Thank you all! Your suggestions are all noted and I am formulating a plan of attack for next week based off of what you all said here.

    On friday, I decided to take a day to go over my expectations for the class one more time. They did not take it very seriously. I let them know that the way they behaved the day before was absolutely unacceptable and rude. Some of them looked at each other and snickered. One student was constantly raising his hand and questioning everything I said. I heard another student as she was walking out of class say "I'm changing my schedule to art".

    Whenever I punish a student, or even simply try to keep them on task, they seem to have this mentality of "My teacher is wrong and I will not stand for it". I get the impression that they think that they're being oppressed. I don't want them to see me as a dictator. I still want them to have fun in my class, but I just want them to be having fun for the right reasons. Of course, it's very hard to give them freedom when they begin acting like wild animals the instant you ease up.

    It might just simply be because I have to wear a nametag that says "substitute" so they instantly assume that I have no expertise in my field. Also, their teacher before me was a virtuoso pianist. I am not. I am at about a high school level when it comes to my piano playing ability and there are a few students in class (about 3 in all of my classes combined) that are very talented and are stronger players than I am. Of course, as a music teacher, we often have to teach students how to play instruments that we ourselves have not mastered (after all, it takes many, many years and rigorous practice to master ONE instrument). Most students already know this and often times understand. With this class, however, it seems to bother them very much.

    I have made it my number 1 priority in my life at the moment to turn this class around, make them love music and to trust me. I thank all of you guys for your suggestions and I'll keep you updated as to how it turns out. Thanks!
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jan 15, 2018 at 2:54 PM

    The fact that you have to wear a tag that says "substitute" is absolutely ridiculous. We all know how most students feel about subs (unqualified, no content knowledge) and I think a lot of your problems come from that. The fact that the other teacher was so loved makes your job harder as well. because most people don't like change, and now they're looking at you as you will never be as good as that teacher was.
    So right now you have a lot of students who don't respect you due to no fault of your own. One of the ways for you to earn their respect is to be in complete control of your classroom, and for that you will have to be strict and firm in the beginning. You might never get to the point where you can relax and have fun with them, but that's ok.

    The fact that your content knowledge / ability is not that strong looks like it's working against you, but it depends on how you look at it and how you view it.
    If it ever comes up, you can tell the students that you're piano skills are at a grade A, high school level, and some of them will probably surpass you because they're more talented. That's ok. Your job is to teach all kids to play piano at a proficient level and the ones that exceed this, your job is to support them and guide them to reach higher levels, even if you've haven't gone there yet.
    Basically you want them to see that you have a lot to offer them, to all of them, they can all learn from you.

    For example I teach English, to American kids (most of whom are native English speakers), here in the United States.
    I'm from Europe, have never actually received formal English instruction, I've learned English completely on my own without help. (I did go to college / university here, and I had to use the English I've had). I still have an accent (always will) still mispronounce words sometimes, still learning some words, still mix up my grammar here and there, especially when I'm tired, upset or distracted. And yet, I'm teaching Americans English.
    However, most of the kids don't view me that they know more than me. I have proven to them time and time again that they can learn a lot from me. I also carry confidence about who I am and what I have to offer. I can teach them things about the English language (and many other languages) they would never even think about. I'm the first one to admit my flaws and I think my students appreciate that. I have a class in which we can have fun and joke around (and still maintain a great learning environment), where sometimes they make fun of me in a very sweet way, and I laugh with them, it's not offensive at all.

    I think you need to be proud of your knowledge and really feel that you do know a lot of things these kids will benefit from. Let that shine through. Tell them things they don't know, teach them some interesting things about music they've never learned, and they will start respecting you as a music teacher and will stop questioning you.
     

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